THE Ratchet & Clank games are one of those fondly remembered mostly PS2/PS3-era games I never played on account of how I didn’t own a console from 1999 until circa 2016 and was instead exclusively a PC gamer.
I haven’t been living under a rock or anything so I knew about the games and roughly who the characters were, but until the latest entry in the series I hadn’t actually had a chance to play any of the games – a situation I am delighted to have now rectified.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart has been developed by Insomniac Games exclusively for the PlayStation 5 and launches on June 11.
After the frustrating grind that was Returnal, I was absolutely delighted to be playing a bright, upbeat, humorous game that wanted me to enjoy it and succeed at it.
Rift Apart’s plot is straightforward yet effective – Ratchet & Clank’s nemesis, Dr Nefarious, has stolen a device known as the Dimensionator, used it to travel to another dimension where he has taken over as emperor – forcing Ratchet and Clank to follow him.
The result is that Ratchet and Clank find themselves in the Nefarious dimension, where they encounter their dimensional counterparts – a Lombax named Rivet, and a small yellow robot named Kit. Together they team up to help stop Dr Nefarious and prevent the universe itself coming about at the seams because of the damage to the very fabric of dimensional reality.
Both Ratchet and Rivet have the same abilities and, through a mechanic that I don’t recall being addressed in-game, the same weapons (right down to ammo quantities) – and the game follows their adventures across several planets as they try to defeat Nefarious and prevent a universe-destroying disaster.
Graphically, the game looks superb – it’s got a bright, animated TV show look about it, but with amazing detail on things such as Ratchet and Rivet’s fur (you almost want to pet them), the lighting effects, and the inter-dimensional effects. It’s such a great game to look at, although the action gets pretty hectic on screen so a larger TV would probably be in order to fully appreciate it all.
The level design was good too – there’s a variety of environments from a parade to mines to an undersea base and I found they were big enough to look around and explore while still being focussed enough that I never got lost. The game plays with perspective cleverly too, notably with how you zip-line between tether points (you basically seem to teleport out of the rift at the other end) and some of the levels where you’re using magnetic boots and running upside down. Some levels even require you to switch dimensions to traverse certain areas – again, not a new mechanic (The Medium used it, for example) but well implemented and not overdone.
There are also areas where you’re grinding along rails, leaping from track to track like you’re in some kind of collapsing theme park ride. It reminded me in a good way of the skyhook element of Bioshock: Infinite and was a fun experience.
Keeping with the cartoony aesthetic, the game is full of all-ages humour; some of the enemies you’ll face are from a company called “Goons-4-Less”; and the comments from Emperor Nefarious’ minions are very funny too, typically centreing on how you aren’t supposed to be defending yourself or how much they enjoy oppressing people.
Ratchet and Rivet also have some wry observations about the situations they find themselves in as well, and the informational videos on the various weapons you can buy were delightfully unhinged too.
There’s a big range of weapons to use in the game, including electro-shock guns, sawblade guns, blaster pistols, rocket-drones, and you’re never far from a robot arms dealer named Ms Zurkon who is only too happy to sell you new toys.
Combat was pretty standard, but made good use of the DualSense controller for recoil effects and the like. The controller’s speaker also provides and added audio dimension, particularly for picking up gears, ammo and items from the world.
Impressively, the game manages to be family-friendly without being lame, cheesy or dull. There’s plenty of action, lots of combat, just the right balance of platform and exploration puzzles and it’s fun – there were some neat surprises (which I won’t spoil) and I had a great time with the game in general.
What really helped take Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart beyond your regular action-platformer game for me was the puzzle sections where you take control of an antivirus robot named Glitch or a quantum form of Clank or Kit and try to defeat computer viruses or repair damage to the dimensional reality respectively.
The latter is strongly reminiscent of the game Lemmings, with theoretical robots running in a straight line and off ledges or into traps unless you can redirect them with energy spheres which let them float, run faster, turn into electrical impulses, or weigh them down. I really enjoyed them – the difficulty level was just right; they never felt like a chore or too frustrating either.
The sections with Glitch are great arcade shooter fun, with Glitch navigating the insides of computers (including running upside down on walls and ceilings) fighting viruses by shooting them with electro-guns and rockets.
As a parent, I was delighted to get to review a game that my primary school-aged kids will be able to enjoy too. So often, when my kids ask “Dad, what are you playing?” I have to say “Something that’s not suitable for you, sorry” and wait until they wander off before I can get back to whatever Not Suitable For Younger Audiences game I’ve been playing.
That’s not an issue at all with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. It feels very much like it’s aimed at the same tween/younger teen audience as things like Miraculous: The Adventures of Ladybug and Cat Noir, The Amazing World of Gumball and the various Lego animated shows. There’s no gore or blood, there’s no swearing, there’s no suggestive situations, no nudity, absolutely nothing at all that is unsuitable for an all-ages audience. What makes the game even more impressive is it’s still so fun and engaging without the presence of mature content.
There’s also some messages of positivity and teamwork and resilience and flaws making you unique etc in there too, which came across as a bit obligatory, but are in keeping with the sort of thing you’d expect for any content aimed at that tween/teen age group.
Overall, I found Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart to be particularly enjoyable. It’s landed right in the Goldilocks Zone of gaming – not too difficult, not too easy, not too long, not too short, not too complicated, not too simple and there’s something in there for everyone.
The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, it look great, it plays well, the whole family can enjoy it, and it feels like a refreshing modern take on the action-platformer genre without getting too far from makes action-platformers so popular in the first place.
If you’ve got a PlayStation 5 and kids (or just want to enjoy it yourself), Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is well worth getting.